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UK political parties spent 17 times more on advertising with US tech giants during 2017 election campaign than with traditional media

By Freddy Mayhew and Arun Kakar

The UK’s seven major political parties spent £4m on advertising with US tech giants during last year’s snap general election campaign and just £239,000 on traditional news media.

The money spent by the parties on advertising with national and regional newspaper publishers was just 6 per cent of that spent on Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon combined.

Facebook alone received £3.1m in advertising spend, three quarters of the total spent with the tech giants.

The figures, published this week by the Electoral Commission, show the struggle print and online newspapers face against the much larger and more wide-reaching online platforms.

Facebook and Google alone already dominate the UK advertising market and are set to take 71 per cent of all UK digital ad spend by 2020, according to analysts.

Last year Google parent company Alphabet, which also owns Youtube, made £111bn in revenues while Facebook made $40bn. Both figures were up significantly year-on-year.

Press Gazette’s Duopoly campaign, launched in April last year, is calling on Facebook and Google to stop destroying journalism and pay more back to news publishers on whose content they rely.

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The Government has launched a review into the future of news media publishers which is set to offer recommendations on how they can be sustained in the face of threats from digital disruptors.

The election data covers ad spend by the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the Green Party, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru over the year to polling day on 8 June 2017.

Press Gazette has refined the data to include only advertising spend across regional and national news publishers and the four tech giants, including Amazon which featured frequently.

The total overall advertising spend was £4.3m across all seven parties. The figure breaks down by party as follows:

  • Conservatives: £2,611,226.45
  • Labour: £943,176.90
  • Liberal Democrats: £673,875.00
  • SNP: £50,832.45
  • Greens: £24,743.55
  • Plaid Cymru: £20,592.96
  • UKIP: £2,516.76

The Conservatives spent the most with Facebook at £2.1m, including a single payment of £1m on the Friday before the nation went to the polls the following Thursday.

Labour spent £577,000 on Facebook and the Liberal Democrats spent £412,000. Labour was the only party to spend with Apple at a cost of £230.

When it comes to traditional media spend, Labour spending came top at £88,000. The party’s largest single expense was £15,600 with Cumbrian Newspapers (which was sold to Newsquest last month).

Labour, which has been dogged by claims of anti-Semitism, also paid £4,500 to the Jewish Chronicle.

The Conservatives spent nearly £87,000 with traditional media.

The party’s single biggest expenditure was £76,800 to Express Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Express and Daily Star (which have since been sold to Trinity Mirror).

Thanks to this one-off payment, Express Newspapers received the most advertising spend, according to the Electoral Commission data.

Among regional news publishers, Newsquest received the most ad spend (£32,600) followed closely by Cumbrian Newspapers (£31,200).

Only UKIP and Plaid Cymru spent more with traditional media than they did with Facebook. UKIP spent no money at all with the tech giant.

The party spent £2,500 overall, almost all of which went to the Press Association. The rest – £256 – was spent with independent broadsheet the New Milton Advertiser, although UKIP won no seats at the election.

 Picture: Pixabay

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